Bookrage's review of "Affairs of the court: choice of romance"
I've got another review for you and originally I was going to do "Choice of the vampire: fall of memphis" but I will tell you I in fact, have already reviewed that one as it is now part of the original "Choice of the Vampire" instead, I have done "Affairs of the Court: Choice of Romance."
biasses: I don't like romance stories though I love intrigue and court politics, so originally I was not sure of what to think fo this game from the name and description alone.
genre: This game is seen as an alt-history fantasy game and I must admit the "choice of romance," is a deceptive secondary title. You do get to charm a number of fine ladies or men (depending on your preference) but "Affairs of the court" is a much more accurate way to think of the game. Politics and intrigue are the main focus of this game and at least when I played were primarily involved in my deicion making.
writing: There are definite plusses and minuses to this one in terms of writing. This game holds your hand a bit and helps spell things out at many times, but the plots in the story are complex enough that I think this is more to the game's credit to keep someone from getting lost. As I only play a chapter a day it proved very helpful. The characters are a little hard to grasp and sometimes they don't have much meat to them, nor do their actions always make sense, even when you take into context certain complications of the story. The choices also have a bit of a "What the Heck?" vibe to them as some of the choices I made seemed to be completely ignored or sometimes my actions got a definite "are you sure?" vibe to them more than once and I essentially had to make my same choice repeatedly to do what I wanted, and these were things I succeeded on. Admittedly I ignored one towards the end of a game and going past the "are you sure" reaction got me killed, but I wish there wasn't so much of this.
The only part of the story I can say where I really hated the writing was when I was under the effects of a mind control spell. For several decisions I pretty much had three "yes master" options with 3 "no" responses dimmed out. My magic stat and other things I thought would matter were super high so having greyed out responses and making me do something I did not want to do several times just made me angry. I see what the game was trying to do to make you feel hte powerlessness, but I would've preferred just shortening that and just had me move through the conversation with the next button.
also, although I played as a man, as I tend to, a lot of the game's scenes seemt o refer to me as a woman, including some of the ways I dress and prepare myself, though the distinction was less what we think today in the early renaissance where the story is conceptually based. Also the creepy flirting of a bad guy was clearly to a female in terms of the gestures and motions he made.
mechanics: This game has some of the most transparent mechanics I have seen. Your personal stats and favor at court are clearly defined with percentages and there aren't too many to keep track of. What you do have to remember however is who you are in good standing with and who you are not as there is not a tracker for that but it clearly matters in the story.
Railroading: Not a whole lot. There are definite moments where it seems your choices are ignored but once you force through all the "are you sure" responses you get to do things that really matter in the end. The achievements also show there are a lot of ways the story can go. Except for the mind control scene above where I'm pretty sure the railroading with the responses was intentional, you can eventually do what you want in this story.
Romance: for a game that has "romance" in the title, it doesn't take center stage for many ways you can play this game. In my game, my character was more concerned with his position and being important and his backing of the queen was more about his career and standing than his interest in love. Although you have several possible love interests in the story and you get the chance at multiple times to hop from one to the next if you want to switch, the game really isn't about that and I've seen much more involved love plots in games that were not about Romance at all in their stated concepts. Most of the love interests are forgettable anyhow. I will give it to them that at least all the possible loves you can have in the game have alterior motives and aren't just there to fall all over you.
achievements: so far, the only game I've seen that has a more robust achievement system is "slammed" and I know I've got a lot of exploring to do on repeat plays. Everything from dying in multiple ways, utter failure at court, having affairs, starting a revolution, surviving each part of the story (I still didn't quite make it through part 3) and various major and minor successes are all there. It is one of the strengths of this game and I wish I saw achievement systems like this more often.
closing remarks: With wooden characters and writing, some awkward moments where gender is unintentionally assumed, and too much pressure on the player to be cautious. this game has a lot of problems. However, it isn't worthless and is better than many titles. It also has fun court intrigue, a robust achievement system, complex plots going through it, and an unusual degree of freedom for a Choiceofgames title. I must say that this game is strictly mediocre, and by that I mean the real meaning of the word and that it is by no means terrible but it is not by any means one of the line's shining stars